MANCHESTER, NH – When Matt Provencher woke up last Wednesday and checked his phone, a Facebook message from the New Hampshire Mushroom Company announcing a first come, first served Chicken of the Woods mushroom caught his eye. Provencher quickly messaged the purveyor and the gigantic mushroom was delivered to The Foundry’s kitchen.
“My team and I were looking at it like, what do we do with this thing?” laughed Provencher, Executive Chef at The Foundry.
What the team did was put together a vegetarian dish that had patrons of Manchester’s newest restaurant swooning; chicken fried Chicken of the Woods with chive waffles and maple mushroom gravy.
“People went crazy for it,” said Provencher.
The chicken fried Chicken of the Woods was prepared sous vide, a cooking technique Provencher has been a longtime fan of. Sous vide is French for “under vacuum.” It is a cooking method in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags then placed in a water bath or temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than average cooking times. The purpose is to cook food evenly, ensuring the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, all while retaining maximum moisture.
It is this level of commitment to using local food sources and the boldness of Provencher’s cooking that sets him apart. Provencher, who is probably best known locally for his stints at Richard’s Bistro and as the chef and owner at 36 deLux, has always offered menus with big, bold dishes, like foie gras, enormous pig shanks, and a variety of duck dishes.
At The Foundry Provencher has introduced sous vide cooking to his repertoire. After working with the city’s Health Department for three months, he has approval to use this slow, low-temperature style of cooking in the restaurant. Currently there are more than a half dozen dishes cooked sous vide on his menu, like the 18 hour ribs, fingerling potatoes, chicken dishes, leeks, and random, seasonal items, like Chantelle mushrooms. For gourmet thrill seekers, Provencher is expanding Manchester’s culinary profile by leaps and bounds.
The menu at The Foundry will change four to five times a year, said Provencher. Current menu items include pan seared scallops with gnocchi, PEI mussels with frites and an aoli sauce, beef tenderloin served on top of a potato patty and creamed kale, seafood pot pie, crab cakes and dessert nachos made with crispy cinnamon sugar pita chips topped lightly with fresh berries and a house made whipped topping, the creation of pastry chef Lynn Dion, formerly of Sweet Cierra’s in Manchester.
The Foundry is fully committed to the farm to table concept and currently works with 33 local farms to source everything ranging from butter, to beef, chicken and produce. Provencher learned to make farm to table concept work when he committed to it while at Martingale Wharf in Portsmouth. Farmers, including Charlie Burke, president of the NH Farm to Restaurant Connection told him he was crazy, that he’d never be able to manage buying local for a nearly 400 seat restaurant. But Provencher did it and busted the myth that having a big restaurant means you can’t source from local farmers. Today he is bringing the skills he learned from that experience to The Foundry.
After several soft openings, The Foundry officially opened on August 12. Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and founder of FIRST robotics, owns the restaurant. After a complete restoration, which brought it back to its working mill days, the space is a love letter to Manchester and manages to be something for everyone, from an upscale eatery to a place to grab a beer after work. The space includes a bar, private wine room for dining and a huge outdoor space overlooking the Merrimack River.
“It feels great coming back to Manchester, “ said Provencher. “Five years ago there was a big influx in the food scene here and only the strong survived. I feel like there is another revival of the city’s food scene going on and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
50 Commercial St., Manchester (formerly 50 Phillippe Cote St.)
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